What does Omni-Channel Commerce mean?
Put simply, it means engaging with your customers, for sales, marketing and customer services, across multiple channels, in such a way that they have a consistent experience of your organisation, regardless of channel or device.
But my customers are tradespeople or other businesses, not consumers…
Please read on. Research by Forrester shows that B2B customers’ expectations have shifted: they expect the same level of omni-channel service from their business suppliers as they get from consumer retailers.
Isn’t this just a new name for multi-channel?
Good question. There is some debate about this, however, we see the difference as being:
Multi-channel: Using more than one channel to engage with customers. For example, selling online as well as having a trade counter, or having a social media presence as well as using direct marketing. A multi-channel approach is more tactical and reactive than an omni-channel approach: the channels are discreet and there is no attempt to give customers a seamless experience.
Omni-channel: Using more than one channel to engage customers, and having an overall strategy that ensures that customers have the same experience, regardless of channel AND regardless of the device they are using to engage. Where a multi-channel approach can be seen as supplier-centric, omni-channel puts the customer at the centre.
For example, a customer could search your inventory and order online from their mobile, log in later and amend the order from a PC, receive delivery tracking information via text message, and message your customer services via Twitter to report a problem with delivery. The customer would expect their account and order information to be updated in real time and to be accessible across each of these platforms.
Sounds complicated. Why do I need this?
- Your customers want it: Two thirds of B2B suppliers surveyed said that their customers are expecting omni-channel capabilities. The study showed that B2B buyers want the same fulfilment capabilities, inventory visibility, convenience and functionality they are used to as consumers.
- It will increase customer loyalty and drive profit: 72% of B2B companies surveyed said omni-channel customers are worth substantially more to them, and 51% said these customers have a higher lifetime value. 83% agreed that ‘we will drive more sales and profit by becoming an omni-channel company’.
- Your competitors are doing it: 87% of B2B suppliers surveyed agreed that ‘to serve today’s customers we have to improve our omni-channel capabilities’. 86% agreed that ‘becoming an effective omni-channel company will be critical to our long-term success.
OK, I’m in. Where do I start?
The research concludes that suppliers must leverage technology to serve savvy buyers. The companies surveyed were installing or upgrading e-Commerce systems, investing in order management and using data and analytics to understand how best to provide personalised experiences for their customers. Building an omni-channel strategy requires an integrated approach across all touchpoints in the B2B buyer journey, as well as the right platform to provide that integrated approach.